Valley projects get $16.5M in proposed bill

Only $950,000 marked for Trumbull in capital budget

Two of Trumbull County’s state lawmakers said they would be satisfied if the state capital budget proposal introduced is passed into law, but not because a lot of money is promised to the county.

Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, and Rep. Mike O’Brien, D-Warren, said Trumbull may not have been awarded as much money as some counties, and several of its requests didn’t make it into the bill, but the bill offers an infusion of cash into the Mahoning Valley as a region, which is good for Trumbull County residents.

“We are looking at this as a region, not just Trumbull County. And when you look at it as a region, we did well when you look at other parts of the state,” Sen. O’Brien said. “The district did better than some Republican districts. The Valley did well. It’s reflective of the collaborative effort made by the region’s lawmakers and officials.”

The bill for 2019 and 2020 fiscal spending, which had its first committee hearing Tuesday after it was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives, proposes just under $1 million in state spending on five Trumbull County projects, and more than $15 million in Mahoning County.

Rep. O’Brien said the bill also would set aside money for the opioid crisis, but it is still unclear how much Trumbull and Mahoning counties would receive through their mental health and recovery boards.

The majority of the money in Mahoning County — all but approximately $1 million — would go toward improvements at Youngstown State University. The largest chunk of money in Trumbull County — $500,000 — would go toward improvements at Kent State University Trumbull campus, according to numbers provided by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

The state’s biennial capital budget, enacted in even-numbered years, provides appropriations for the repair, reconstruction and construction of capital assets of state agencies, colleges, universities and school districts, according to the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. Requests are received from across Ohio’s 88 counties.

Trumbull County’s requests amounted to nearly $7 million. A compressed natural gas filling station, money to help get the Robins Theater in Warren up and running again, renovation of a building for the nonprofit Inspiring Minds, improvements to the Warren-Skeets Airport and river walk improvements near the Warren Community Amphitheater did not receive funding in the proposal.

Although the bill didn’t cover the projects, Rep. O’Brien said he and the other local lawmakers will keep pursuing state funding and work on partnerships that will increase the chance of getting funding in the future.

The proposal would infuse the proposed $500,000 Weathersfield Township multi-jurisdictional center with $150,000, contribute $75,000 to help finish the final leg of the Western Reserve Greenway Bike Trail, $25,000 for the Cortland Veterans Memorial Project and $200,000 for improvements to Eastwood Field. The county asked for $460,000 for the bike trail.

About $4 million of the money that could go to YSU would help build the Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center in downtown Youngstown, which received $3 million in the 2017-18 budget bill.

“This is an important lab for students, and since 25 percent of students at YSU are residents of Trumbull County, it will help prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow,” Rep. O’Brien said.

The university still needs to raise $14 million for the center, which will be a shared resource training center designed to become a hub of workforce development, innovation and research, particularly focused on advanced manufacturing.

“This is a project that is important for YSU, for our regional manufacturing sector, for our local school districts and for the economic future of the entire Mahoning Valley,” said Jim Tressel, president of YSU. “We thank the leaders of the great state of Ohio for their belief in our collaborative proposal.”

YSU also would receive $2.3 million for renovations and expansion of the physical therapy program in Cushwa Hall, $1.75 million for structural improvements to Ward Beecher Science Hall, $1.5 million for renovations to the pedestrian bridge over Wick Avenue, $1.1 million for campus roof replacements, $1 million for renovations to Fedor Hall and $684,000 for other building renovations.

It is likely to take about a month for the bill to move through the House and the Ohio Senate before it makes its way to Gov. John Kasich’s desk, Rep. O’Brien said.

“There probably won’t be many changes to the bill once the House sends it to us. We worked on it closely as it was being drafted,” Sen. O’Brien said.